A record number of Americans are losing their jobs — but Walmart, Amazon, Ace Hardware and others are hiring to fill 604,000 openings amid coronavirus demand
Many employees in the U.S. are holding their breath, waiting to see if their jobs will be the next to disappear as the coronavirus pandemic cripples parts of the U.S. economy. But at the same time, hiring is ramping up in some industries.
Some 22 million Americans filed for unemployment benefits in the past month. As Americans practice social distancing to contain the spread of COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus, layoffs are hitting sectors that rely on foot traffic, such as restaurants and bars, hospitality, and brick-and-mortar retail. Those job losses are starting to spread to other industries, including white-collar professions.
But the good news is that layoffs aren’t happening across the board. In fact, a wave of unprecedented demand in certain sectors is sending some employers on hiring sprees.
Walmart Inc. US:WMT
said last month it plans to hire 150,000 new workers. The retail giant filled all of these roles in less than a month, about six weeks ahead of schedule.
On Friday, the company announced that it will hire 50,000 additional associates across distribution centers and stores, filling roles such as cashiers and personal shoppers, MarketWatch reported. The company said these new roles are likely to be temporary.
The company said it had already managed to hire 80,000 people for the original 100,000 roles as of April 2. The current openings are across the U.S. “in fulfillment, delivery and sortation operations which do require people to be on-site,” an Amazon spokeswoman told MarketWatch
Amazon’s hiring in March was for fulfillment centers, transportation operations, Amazon Go Stores, Whole Foods stores, and in deliveries. “While most of the hires will stay with the company through at least April, we do anticipate there will be opportunities to stay with Amazon in a longer temporary or permanent role,” an Amazon spokeswoman said last month.
Beyond Amazon and Walmart, here are the companies and sectors that are ramping up hiring:
Food and convenience stores
As Americans flock to grocery stores to maintain their “pandemic pantries,” shelves are being stripped clean. In order to restock them in a timely manner grocery chains including Albertsons Cos., Kroger US:KR
and Trader Joe’s have either increased hiring or offered bonuses to employees.
The convenience store chain 7-Eleven announced in March that it’s hiring 20,000 employees for positions across 70,000 locations in the U.S.
“This will provide job opportunities and ensure 7-Eleven stores remain clean and in-stock with the goods our customers need during this critical time,” said 7-Eleven president and CEO, Joe DePinto. The company anticipates that the majority of the new hires will be used to fulfill orders on 7NOW, an on-demand delivery app.
Albertsons Cos., a national grocery chain which owns Safeway and Acme, “is immediately hiring 30,000 new associates,” the company announced late last month.
(7-Eleven and Albertsons did not respond to a request for comment on how many of those positions have since been filled).
Kroger is hiring 20,000 new associates nationwide across retail stores, manufacturing plants and distribution centers, the company said two weeks ago. Last month, Kroger announced plans to hire 10,000 new workers, but ended up hiring a total of 23,500 workers, Kristal Howard, a Kroger spokeswoman said. Kroger’s average hourly wage is $15 an hour, she said.
In the last two weeks of March, Kroger hired 30,600 new employees, Howard told MarketWatch in early April.
Trader Joe’s is paying bonuses to store employees amid an “unprecedented increase” in sales due to the coronavirus pandemic, Business Insider reported. The company did not respond to request for comment on whether they are also increasing hiring and how much they are paying employees in bonuses.
Home improvement stores
Home improvement stores have remained open in most states. Like grocery stores, they are considered essential businesses.
“Our focus is to bring people in as permanent employees,” Mary Winn Pilkington, senior vice president of investor relations and public relations at Tractor Supply Co. The majority of the new hires will be filling customer service roles and safety roles, she added.
Some 5,300 Ace Hardware stores have remained open across the country. In response to heightened demand for home supplies, the retailer-owned hardware cooperative said early April that it is looking to hire 30,000 new full-time, part-time and seasonal workers.
stores have also remained open to ensure customers have access to essential appliances like refrigerators and freezers in addition to cleaning products. The company announced late last month that it is looking to fill 30,000 permanent and temporary job openings at distribution centers and in-stores.
Because more consumers are shopping online and having food delivered to them, there is a need for more drivers and remote workers to coordinate delivery logistics, Glassdoor senior economist Daniel Zhao said.
That sector has grown the fastest over the past month, Zhao said, according to Glassdoor hiring data. Most of the job openings are for truck and delivery drivers as well as warehouse workers, he said.
While these types of jobs may be less appealing to people who are trying to limit face-to-face contact with others, there are also a variety of supply chain analysis jobs and delivery dispatch jobs that can be done remotely.
“Obviously there is high demand in health care,” Stephen Stanley, chief economist at Amherst Pierpont, a New York-based fixed income securities brokerage firm, said. “But that isn’t something anyone off the street can do.”
CVS Health US:CVS
plans to add 50,000 full-time, part-time and temporary workers, the company said. It has decided to take on furloughed workers from hotel chains. The company recently waived home delivery fees for prescriptions and said it is looking to hire more drivers.
The company has hired 5,000 people, a CVS spokesman, said. “Many of these roles are at the retail level and in our distribution centers,” he added.
Popular pizza chains in the U.S. are also experiencing a surge in demand as many restaurants and quick-service chains have shifted to takeout, delivery, drive-thru and pick-up only.
Pizza Hut is looking to fill 30,000 permanent job openings, Yum Brands Inc. US:YUM,
its parent company, announced. As families eat more meals together, Pizza Hut says it has seen an increase in demand for its Big Dipper pizza, which offers two feet of pizza and 24 slices.
Hungry Howie’s, a Detroit-based pizza chain with 550 locations in 21 states, has 2,000 permanent delivery driver openings, the company said last month. Drivers can make up to $15 an hour, a company spokeswoman told MarketWatch.
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Dane Jasper, CEO of Sonic, a Northern California-based internet and telecommunications provider serving more than 100,000 customers, said his company has experienced a record surge in new customers. To meet the increased demand, he will likely be hiring an additional 15 employees a month to join his team of 520 employees, he said.
“With so many folks engaging in social distancing and distance learning, unlike many industries, we are busier than ever before,” Jasper said. Employees of Sonic, like other telecommunication companies, are allowed to travel freely through regions that have shelter-in-place orders because their services are deemed essential, especial for emergency communication purposes, Jasper said.
Increased demand in the U.S. for respiratory equipment such as ventilators has led to more in hiring in manufacturing.
“At some point certain manufacturers will want to increase hiring so that they can make more ventilators,” said Stanley of Amherst Pierpont. “It’s almost like a wartime operation,” he added. In addition to hospital beds and health professionals, there has been ventilator shortages in some states. The breathing machines are critical to saving the lives of patients with severe coronaviruses cases.
The company, working alongside Ventec Life Systems, is on track to ship out 600 by the end of this month. They were contracted to make 30,000 ventilators.
“The effort involved sourcing hundreds of parts and assemblies from suppliers; the design of a new manufacturing process; the transformation of GM’s Kokomo factory; the ongoing hiring of more than 1,000 manufacturing team members; and the implementation of extensive health and safety protocols in the workplace,” GM told MarketWatch.
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